Police will seek new ways to cut casualties

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POLICE are creating a road casualty reduction team as research shows young rural drivers are 37 per cent more vulnerable than townies.

Research published by Road Safety Analysis last week gave each district and borough a ‘young driver risk rate index’ from 205 for South Holland, Lincolnshire, to 12 for the City of London. It found rural districts had an average index of 147, the same as Mid Suffolk’s, while urban areas averaged only 93.

St Edmundsbury’s risk rate was 132, one point below the average for small towns, Breckland’s was 123 and Forest Heath’s was 113.

The report says ‘rurality’ is not a factor with older drivers while a road’s speed limit has little effect on the differences between young and old injury rates. It concludes something must be done to ‘deal with their inexperience on demanding rural roads’.

Sgt Paul Ward, co-ordinator for Suffolk Police’s Casualty Reduction Team, which goes active in April, said he was not surprised by the findings. “A lot of it is down to the inexperience of the driver,” he said. “Speed is not necessarily an out and out cause, but will have an affect on the seriousness of the injury.”

He said driving test instruction did not include much on coping with the demands of rural roads and few youngsters did Pass Plus extra tuition or courses by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) or Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The Casualty Reduction Team will work with the Suffolkroadsafe multi-agency partnership and will comprise experienced traffic officers looking at an interactive approach to raising driver and motorcyclist awareness.

Suffolk IAM group secretary Jeff Beecham agreed speed was not always a factor and felt things like correct placing on approach to bends was more critical. IAM training, includes its Momentum assessments of young drivers’ skills, but Mr Beecham said: “The difficulty with training is to get the youngsters involved. It’s trying to persuade them they need it, but they all think they’re good drivers.”

Details of IAM courses are at www.iam.org.uk and Pass Plus at www.direct.gov.uk/passplus